By: Joleen Dilk Salyn Edited by: Kimberly Ouellette
Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. It’s time to ‘Fall Back’ an hour and change your clocks on Saturday night (October 31st), thus granting us an extra hour of sleep. In theory.
While the opportunity to gain an extra hour of sleep is eagerly anticipated by many, those of us with children aren’t so excited. In fact, many parents of young children view this time with a sense of dread. This is particularly true if your child already starts their day around 6:00am, because now you will be facing 5am wake up calls.
As a pediatric sleep consultant, I get many questions around this time of year on just how to manage this time change. Here are some of my top three tips for parents:
1. Keep Your Child Well-Rested
Waking up between 5:30-7:00am is considered age appropriate and normal. If your child is waking up earlier than this prior to the time change, this could be an indication that they are overtired. Not getting enough sleep is the number one cause of rising before 5:30am, so watch your child’s routine in the weeks leading up to the time change. Offer regular naps and an age appropriate bedtime to ensure they are caught up on sleep.
2. Move Your Child’s Routine Forward
If you would like to have a smooth transition to the new clock time, you can begin to shift your child’s routine ahead in small increments during the week leading up to the time change. You may decide to move ahead every day by 10-15 minutes, or move every second day to allow a period of adjustment. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to shift their whole routine forward including meal and playtimes. In doing so, you will help this to be as effective as possible.
3. Get a Helping Hand from Nature
Sleep patterns are influenced by our circadian rhythms, which are controlled by a master “clock” called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is located in the brain right above the optic chiasm and regulates our sleep in part by the release of melatonin (sleep hormone) in accordance to how much light it perceives. When we travel to different time zones or move through time changes, the SCN is what will slowly shift our internal clocks around. Let nature help to reset not only your child’s patterns, but yours as well. Get outside in the morning sunlight as much as you can during the first week after the time change so the sun can work its magic. It will take about a week, but the body clock will begin to adjust to the new time change.
The end of Daylight Savings Time can be concerning for parents of young children, but by following the three tips above, you will move through this transition smoothly and quickly.
Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.